Joined up thinking for the Irish Left
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Spirit of Contradiction >>
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Public Inquiry >>
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NAMA Wine Lake >>
Mr Kenny: Sexual abuse of children is NOT "human nature"
irish social forum |
Monday February 10, 2014 15:58 by Grace L - Centre For the Study of Women in Society
Ireland's failure to protect Louisa O'Keefe & countless others is not about "human nature":
The institutionalized abuse of children is a social ill, the holdover of a long dark age, from which society is only just awakening.
Mr Kenny: Sexual abuse of children is NOT "human nature"
Discussing Louisa O'Keefe's victory in the European Court, Taoiseach Enda Kenny called child abuse "human nature"
Last week, RTE Radio broadcast Taoiseach Endy Kenny's refusal to give assurances that sexual abuse of children by teachers won't continue, citing "human nature" as the reason.
Yet, after publication of the SAVI report ** (Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland), 12 years ago, "wipespread" molestation of students had less to do with human nature than with the nature of government.
In fact, "...the State had direct knowledge of widespread sexual abuse of children from at least the 1930s..." The State's inaction meant it knowingly permitted the sexual abuse of children to continue unchecked, with impunity.
It is no news to reserchers and activists in this issue, that countless children's natural cries for help were cynically repulsed for decades by an adult conspiracy of silence in church, school, (and sometimes even in parents); structured to conceal these crimes, and to mould children into ideal prey.
It is a truism among feminists that sexual violence is a learned behaviour. Much work, however, remains to be done in addressing the exact nature of that learning process; as well as developing strategies for how that process can be effectively dismantled.
Sexual violence is, at this juncture, a deeply-rooted cultural tradition around the world. Educational programs at the high school and college levels, while certainly necessary, are often confronting youth whose indoctrination in the secret handshakes of sexual abuse has already been long ingrained. Even the important work of confronting and changing institutions is only the tip of the iceberg.
A society based on child exploitation
Child abuse statistics in general, when viewed in the historical context of European marriage customs, should make it abundantly clear: sexual abuse of children and youth is not an unusual aberration in our society. We are only now just emerging from a long dark age in which society has been based on the sexual exploitation of children.
The buying and selling of youth into marriage to the highest bidder, as sexual slaves with no say in the choice of their life partner, was largely the norm in Europe until the 17th century, and had not died out completely by the 20th. In other parts of the world, these practices, and worse, still shamefully thrive. Even where slaves have been technically “freed”, the “tall white mansions and little shacks,” the structural power relationships, tend to hang on unchanged.
It is a system with two massively crippling consequences for society as a whole, even above and beyond the holocaust of individual suffering: First, a social structure in which the only sex that's prohibited is consensual. Where sex is a commodity distributed according to wealth; and where the natural unfolding of healthy youthful sexuality is brutally interrupted and perverted to serve adult agendas.
It is characteristic of such systems to trivialize the sexual feelings and preferences of victims, while deifying those of the exploiter: a mentality we may hear rearing its ugly head in the present debate.
Despite children’s vast capacity to accept and even idealize the worst experiences, to be raped, exploited or seduced by the very adults they must look up to for their basic concepts of good, bad, right, wrong, true and false, is a blow to the budding sense of natural justice common to all rational beings. At a tender age it can bring down the moral threshold to the abysmal low where “anything goes.”
Multiplied by the number of adults abused as children, now and in the future running our world, the damage to our moral progress toward a more just society is profoundly undermined.
When we hear today of the most heinous atrocities (the details of which the reader will be spared here,) carried out by those mysterious death squads roaming the Third World these days, one inevitably asks oneself: Who could they get to do these things? How could they get anyone to do this? Only one answer is possible: they had to get these people as children. (Born out by the astonishing percentage of soldiers, currently forced to serve in the world’s most savage conflicts, at the age of ten and even younger.)
We are only now regaining our in-born consciousness that espousification of children is an unnatural crime, because it violates the most fundamental natural justice. Children need adults to take care of them. They can’t be expected to look after adult needs: adults are too big and children too small for that. That’s not fair.
And as anyone who has followed either the church abuse scandal or child labor issues knows, the excessive burdens of adult exploitation can be fatal to children. Intercourse, with its dangers of disease and pregnancy is at all times a grave health risk. (And every pregnancy endangers a woman’s life.)
This is not the only way of organizing human sexuality. Beyond that Dark Age can be found survivals of healthier traditions; often in indigenous societies, or in pre-Roman systems such as the Brehon laws.
A new approach is needed
All that said, imprisonment is certainly a failed paradigm for dealing with sexual exploitation of children and youth. Not because abuse is "human nature," but because of society's long war on sexual choice for all.
Human sexual drive cannot be legislated away, but only understood, and accommodated with proper respect for the basic human needs of all: not only those of a priveleged few. Otherwise, unbridled abuse of one class or gender or age group by another is the result.
Without sweeping changes in our approach to the problem, adults will continue to exploit youth because they can, in a social landscape which raises more barriers than bridges to consensual relations with other adults. And youth will submit to be exploited, sometimes even without force or intimidation, because grown-ups can persuade them to, and if this is the only source of sex education their elders will offer them.
Public education programs, such as we've recently seen in driver safety and drinking issues, and including comparably well-produced, deeply affecting and high-exposure television spots, might go much further toward preserving youth's sexual health than any threat of imprisonment has ever done.
We must navigate the jungle of hysterical emotion, superstitious hypocrisy and cynical tittering to address the sexual health of society as a whole. We need to talk about these issues until we can do so without blushing and stammering. We need to discuss them with other adults. We need to become educated, and provide education, about how to discuss them with children, so as to serve their needs, rather than ours.
Which will be impossible until our general sexual health affords us the equilibrium to consider something other than pressing, unfulfilled needs of our own, for just a moment.
** SAVI Report found that 1 in 5 women (20.4 per cent) reported contact sexual abuse in childhood and 1 in 10 reported non-contact sexual abuse. More than 1 in 20 women (5.6 per cent) – over 110,000 – were raped as children; 1 in 6 men (16.2 per cent) reported sexual abuse in childhood, 1 in 14 reported non-contact abuse; 2.7 per cent of all men were subjected to penetrative sex (anal or oral sex) in childhood.